Soft Schedule Warriors

Hawai'i's BCS hopes are drained by a poor strength of schedule

College Football Preview: Week 10

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Nov. 1, 2007

By Jerry Palm

Special To CSTV.com

 



JERRY PALM

Jerry runs the web sites CollegeRPI.com and CollegeBCS.com and a CSTV.com analyst. E-mail here!

The teams at the top of the BCS standings made it through a week full of tough games unscathed.  That will not be the case this week.

 

Fourth-ranked Arizona State goes to Eugene to take on No. 5 Oregon in the second matchup of the season between two Top 5 teams.  This is an elimination game in the BCS title chase.  If Oregon loses, it will be the Ducks' second loss, which is fatal in the BCS.  If Oregon wins, it would only be the first loss for the Sun Devils, but it is likely that ASU would fall near the bottom of the Top 10, assuming no other upsets.  With only a few weeks left, that could be too big of a hill to climb.


 

 

 

LSU has probably peaked in the ratings at No. 3 until the undefeated teams lose.  In fact, the Tigers have to watch their backs.  If ASU wins this week, there is a good chance that LSU falls behind the Sun Devils.  Oregon is less likely to make the pass with a win, but it would at least get right on the Tigers' tails.  LSU has another big road test this week against former Tiger coach Nick Saban and Alabama.  This is an important game not only for the BCS title hopes of LSU, but the winner controls its own destiny in the SEC West.

 

The top two teams should have a little easier time this week than last week.  Ohio State will play its highest ranked opponent of the season this week when No. 18 Wisconsin visits, but the Badgers, which have fought injury problems all year, may be without star RB P.J. Hill.  Boston College gets Florida State at home this week, and as long as the Eagles don't have a letdown after their win over Virginia Tech, that should be no problem.

 

Kansas also looks to remain unbeaten when it hosts Nebraska. The Jayhawks are still not getting very much attention in the championship picture, but if they actually get to 13-0, they will very likely end up passing all of the one-loss teams that are currently ranked ahead of them.  Of course, they will either take care of Oklahoma themselves, or someone will have beaten them to it.  Kansas fans can take heart in the fact that the last time an undefeated, major team finished the regular season ranked below a one-loss team was in 1993, when Florida State was 11-1 and No. 1 in the AP poll, ahead of undefeated No. 2 Nebraska, No. 3 West Virginia and No. 5 Auburn.

 

Outside of the championship race, the focus is on whether Hawai'i can climb high enough in the BCS standings to automatically qualify for a BCS bowl bid.  The Warriors are off this week, which is unfortunate for them.  Teams that don't play tend to be forgotten by voters, so assuming there aren't a number of losses ahead of them this week, Hawai'i could slip a bit in the polls.

 

The other reason it's unfortunate is that by not having a game to ponder, we can spend time thinking about how historically weak its schedule has been so far, and therefore question whether they should be ranked so highly.

 

According to the old BCS strength of schedule formula, Hawai'i is not just last, but the margin between them and second-to-last Memphis is bigger than the gap between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 13 Stanford.  The highest rated team in my expanded BCS ratings that the Warriors have faced so far is No. 90 New Mexico State.  Also, no other team in the BCS era has played a schedule rated this poorly at this point in the season, or even come close.  It doesn't figure to get too much better.  Even with Fresno State and Boise State coming up, Hawai'i still projects to last in SOS.

 

The only kind of struggle a Top 10 team should have against a schedule like this is maintaining interest, but that hasn't been the case for Hawai'i.  Two of their opponents, Louisiana Tech and San Jose State, have taken them to overtime.  Those are the highest rated teams the Warriors have faced on the road.

 

Hawai'i fans will tell you that the weak schedule isn't Hawai'i's fault.  There is some truth to that - some - but it doesn't matter.  Teams can only be judged on performance against their actual schedule.  Hawai'i's performance hasn't measured up to where the voters rate it, nor has it earned the benefit of the doubt.

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